Beyond Bayeux

7th May 2021

Long-time readers of All Stitched Up! will know that we have discussed the famous Bayeux Tapestry here in the newsletter on more than one occasion. There is good reason for this. We doubt there is a single stitcher out there who isn’t impressed by the sheer scale of this 950-year-old embroidery. The 70-metre-long masterpiece depicts the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the Norman conquest of Britain.

Containing millions of stitches, all painstakingly worked by a group of anonymous embroiderers, this project inspires and amazes to this day.

The reason we are bringing it up again is there are a couple of new stories related to the Bayeux Tapestry that we wanted to share.

You can explore the Bayeux Tapestry stitch by stitch (source)

Firstly, did you know that the entire tapestry has now been digitised in high resolution and is available for everyone the world over to examine at the Bayeux Museum’s website? For the average person this would be good news, but for anyone who stitches this is something else entirely. In the process, the team doing the digitisation has ensured that we can now zoom so close to the fabric that we are able to examine every single stitch if we so wish.

Even when you go to a museum it is rare to be able to get close enough to a work to take in the tiniest of details. This digitisation, which has taken four years to complete, means that you can now explore the Bayeux Tapestry with a precision enjoyed previously only by restorers, museum workers or the original embroiderers themselves. Best of all, you can explore the Bayeux Tapestry from your own desktop, whenever you choose and wherever you are.

Mia Hansson with part of her Bayeux Tapestry. Picture credit – Mia Hansson (source)

Then there are some stitchers who find the Bayeux Tapestry more than just an inspiration. Mia Hansson took her passion for this historical work of art to the next level and embarked on a 10-year project to recreate the entire tapestry. In full size. Yes, you read that correctly! This incredible lady from Wisbech in the UK is now almost halfway through her mammoth undertaking, with the plan to have the entire project finished by 2026.

Mia Hansson at work recreating the entire Bayeux Tapestry. Picture credit – Mia Hansson (source)

Mia proudly states that she was always someone ‘known for not doing things by half.’ If there was something that inspired her, she wanted to be more ambitious and make it even bigger and better. As a result, when she saw another stitcher doing a half-sized replica of the famous embroidery, her project was decided.

Since then, she’s been sketching, stitching and putting panels together, progressively following in the footsteps of those quiet needleworkers of the distant past.

Mia says she loves stitching the horses but isn’t so keen on bricks and roof tiles. She really enjoyed ships, until she’d stitched a few in a row and then she was looking forward to doing another horse! But the determination and dedication of this amazing woman is something to admire. When she finally finishes, she’ll be the proud owner of a 70 metre, hand-stitched reproduction of one of the most famous embroideries in history.

Closeup of Mia’s Bayeux Tapestry. Picture credit – Mia Hansson (source)

Mia hopes that when the project is complete someone might buy her finished work. If not, she’s hopeful that she can find a venue where it can live permanently and where she’ll be able to hold viewings and give talks about the tapestry and her long journey of creation. In the meantime, she’s been documenting her progress with a view to ultimately publishing ‘Mia’s Bayeux Tapestry Story’; a book that she says will likely end up thicker than the Bible!

A small section of Mia’s work. Photo credit – Mia Hansson (source)

Because she’s hand sketched all of the characters and motifs, she’s developed a colouring book containing many of her drawings that has been selling well. She’s also been inspired through her work to start writing a historical novel about the stitchers who made the original tapestry almost a millennia ago. We find ourselves wondering whether there is anything that this incredible woman can’t do. What an inspiration.

Textile restorers examining the Bayeux Tapestry (Source)

We’re confident this won’t be the last time we find new things to write about the Bayeux Tapestry. It is a piece of needlework which has stood the test of time and is as important to historians and stitchers today as it was in the past. Whether you enjoy it digitally, or whether it inspires you to pick up a needle and stitch a part (or all!) of it, the Bayeux Tapestry is truly a part of embroidery history.

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